In The Tradition Of John Reed S Classic Ten Days That Shook The World, This Bestselling Account Of The Collapse Of The Soviet Union Combines The Global Vision Of The Best Historical Scholarship With The Immediacy Of Eyewitness Journalism A Moving Illumination Remnick Is The Witness For Us All Wall Street Journal Lenin s Tomb by David Remnick is one of those books that makes you want to tell no, command your friends, Stop whatever you re reading and pick up this book The story Remnick s report about the fall of the Soviet Empire begins with the nightmare of the Stalinist Era I had heard horror stories about Stalin But I had no idea just how bad it was Compared to Stalinist Russia, the Third Reich sounds as harmless as a knitting party Estimates range from 40 to 60 million Lenin s Tomb is powerful because Remnick rarely traffics in such large numbers Instead, his attention are drawn to the families whose fathers were dragged into the night by the KGB Several only learned that their family members had died when receiving letters returned from a gulag marked, deceased or in one case, Cannot deliver recipient moved to cemetery The style Lenin s Tomb is in the tradition of the New Journalism that emerged during the 1960s and 70s By contrast, in traditional journalism the journalist was invisible But the New Journalists think Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, Truman Capote are present in their work Remnick shows up frequently in his book He mentions that he and his wife attend dinner with Russian friends, attend protests in Red Square, etc The effect is morally profound You can feel Remnick s outrage and despondency while he reports the horrors of the Soviet regime One of the most chilling moments of the 624 pg book occurs when Remnick himself a Jew interviews anti Semites who blame the Jews for all of the troubles of the Soviets they are either oblivious to the fact that he is Jewish or perhaps worse they simply don t care.I cannot recommend this book highly enough It earned its 1994 Pulitzer and its plentiful accolades Though readers should be warned This book gave me nightmares How could human beings treat other human beings this way and on such a sprawling scale Week old newspapers seemed valuable during Stalin s regime That reality is deeply disturbing Remnick s story is brutal but his vision isn t nihilistic He is a deeply moral writer who celebrates the lives of bravery of men like Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Men who stood as witnesses against the regime. If you are a hard line communist apparatchik about to launch a coup d tat against those who libel World Socialism and defame the noble memory of Stalin then here is some advice plan your coup well and don t confuse planning with plotting.This is plotting the traitor Yeltsin will be arrested and held accountable for his crimes Yanev will replace him as President of a new USSR, its historic glory restored.This is planning Yeltsin will be arrested at his Dacha in Vnukovo at 04 00 hours on 19 August by a contingent of five trusted soldiers of the Felix Dzerhinsky division, dispatched from the Nemchinovka barracks at 03 33 travelling south west on the road to Krasnoznamensk.The August 1991 coup by soviet hardliners was very well plotted, but wholly lacking in planning.Why wasn t the Russian Parliament building, the White House, sealed and surrounded to prevent the Russian democratic parliamentarians from taking refuge in it, copying the techniques of democratic supporters in Vilnius only a few months before How did Yeltsin drive past whole brigades of tanks to make his last stand there Why were practically none of the people on the arrest list actually arrested Here is some advice lock up the drinks cabinet Being zapoi the Russian word for several days of drunkenness when one withdraws from society seemed to be a requirement for high office in a restored Soviet State If the plotters had sobered up enough to issue some half decent emergency decrees and order a few summary executions they would have probably succeeded.Of Yanayev, made President of Russia by the plottersHe was a vain man of small intelligence, a womanizer, and a drunk I m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in RussiaMy Thai friend told me that there were so many coups in the country because Thailand has a food surplus Demonstrators on the barricades are never quite hungry enough to decisively overthrow the state at the end of the day they can go back home and eat This seems to explain the deteriorating quality of the Russian coup over the seventy odd years from 1917 to 1991 The plotters lived a life of privilege, of Zils, Dachas and caviar They just weren t hungry enough.Gorbachov started channeling Shakespeare around 1985 Like Lear he had a vision of a harmonious state, failing to foresee how vested interests and human rivalry would make it impossible like Hamlet he is suspicious and not as innocent as he seems but is also vacillating and indecisive at key junctures like Macbeth he believes he is bigger than the situation, headed for a greater destiny When the curtain closes he is reviled by all sides and lucky to be alive.The audience to this play is kept in a state of high dramatic tension Gorbachov is blind to his friends of forty years changing to enemies, oblivious as they cut him off from rivals who, in truth, are the only people he can trust For God s sake Gorbachov, the butler did it Of course the Head of the KGB is plotting your downfall It isn t the State Minster for Woman s Issues that s going to knife you in the back for heaven s sake.This is a great book, well deserving of its Pulitzer Prize The tension grows leading up to the final section with details of the coup.If this was a thriller it would all be too thrilling But as a work of non fiction, reality intrudes with all its messy reality Events are driven by dumb luck, ambition, personal grudges and that key to understanding all human endeavors routine incompetence Even so some outstanding characters worthy of the finest novelist appear on its pages saints Sakharov villains Ligachev buffoons Yanayev tragic heroes Gorbachov, Yeltsin.The events of August 1991 in Russia have faded into memory Things could have gone much worse for Russia and the world that summer But as observers saw at the time once these events were over and done with Russia s future remained very uncertain, as it still remains today. Society is sick of history It is too mucy with usArseny Roginsky, quoted in David Remnick, Lenin s TombWhile Remnick was writing for the Washington Post in Moscow, my family was living in Izmir, Turkey and then in Bitburg, Germany We got the opportunity to travel to Moscow shortly after the August, 1991 the beginning of my Senior year Coup It was a strange period So much changed so fast I was trading my Levi jeans in St Petersburg and Moscow for Communist flags, Army medals, busts of Lenin It was only as I got older that I realized both how crazy the USSR Russia was during that time and how blessed the Washington Post was to have David Remnick writing home about it.I ve read other books by Remnick The Bridge The Life and Rise of Barack Obama and King of the World Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero, and parts of Reporting Writings from The New Yorker The New Yorker is where I discovered and fell in love with his prose So, with Remnick, I was reading backwards It was time I read what is perhaps his greatest work Lenin s Tomb is a comprehensive look at the last years of the Soviet Union from the election of Gorbachev with occasional backward glances at Khrushchev, etc It was nice to get information about Andrei Sakharov I knew only broad aspects of his story, and still need to read and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn I know about him, but need to read of his work.Some of this isn t dated No That is the wrong word It is history, and by definition all history is dated, but the book ends with a lot of potential energy It is sad to see that a lot of the potential for Russia s democracy has been lost into the authoritarianism of Putin It is also scary to read quotes from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and unabaashed neofacists who won 8 million votes in 1991, and hear words that could easily have been spoken by Donald Trump Nations and regimes are never as solid as we think Often the corruption that exists for years, like a cavity, eats away at the insitutions until they become empty husks and everything colapses Perhaps, that is one lesson WE in the United States and Europe should learn from the Soviet Union s collapse in the early 90s Perhaps, it is too late.Some of my random pieces by Remnick related to Russia Notes From Underground Review of John McPhee s The Ransom of Russian ArtThe Historical Truth Telling of Arseny RoginskyTrump, Putin, and the New Cold War just incredible this is, without a doubt, one of the best books I ve ever read I don t have any deep interest in Soviet Russian history, but Remnick s writing is mesmerizing And clever plus it contains one of the best lines I ve ever read I m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.
Lenin s Tomb The Last Days of the Soviet Empire Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker magazine since 1998 He was named Editor of the Year by Advertising Age in 2000 Before joining The New Yorker, Remnick was a reporter and the Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post He has also served on the New York Public Library s board of trustees In 2010 he published his sixth book,
- 624 pages
- Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire
- David Remnick
- 12 February 2019 David Remnick